St. Mary’s High School has adopted a drug testing policy that will begin with voluntary testing in March but be mandatory for all students in the 2013-14 school year, the school announced Wednesday.
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which detractors say will be easier for kids to obtain, was one reason the school’s executive council gave the policy a green light, said St. Mary’s President John Kraus.
“We realize that even as a Catholic school, we don’t live in a bubble. We want to give our students the best protection we can. Our policy will give students another reason to say no, that in spite of the culture saying it is okay, we are saying no it isn’t okay,” Kraus said. He said that students are counseled in classes to say no to drugs.
The Catholic school in Colorado Springs is thought to be one of only a handful of schools in Colorado that have such a policy, administrators said. Several Catholic schools across the country have similar programs. Four Catholic schools in Denver have not instituted such a policy.
Voluntary testing, to which parents must agree to in writing to have their child included, will begin in March. Such tests show drug use retroactively for up to 90 days. School authorities will be trained to collect the hair samples, which will be tested at an out-of-state laboratory.
Students who are found to have used drugs must attend a cessation class and will be barred from extracurricular activities for a week. On the second offense, students will be suspended from classes for three days, and from sports and other extracurricular programs for 30 days. The third offense ends with temporary of permanent expulsion.
There are slightly different consequences for tobacco use.
Kraus said parents and teachers are on board with the new policy, which students were advised about on Wednesday. Kraus said they asked a lot of questions, including who will be tested and how.
Hair samples of those selected will be submitted to Psychemedics for testing and will show any drugs used in the past 90 days, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates such as heroin and oxycodone, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.
The school will cover the costs of the tests, but treatment and subsequent tests after positive results would be the responsibility of the students’ family.
While many districts in the region have considered testing policies, only Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 adopted a policy. In spring 2010, the D-12 board approved a policy for voluntary, random testing and the district took early steps to implement a program. It needed 50 kids to sign up to participate, but fewer than 20 parents enrolled their kids, said D-12 Superintendent Walt Cooper.
At the time, the board decided against a mandatory testing policy because of legal questions and costs.
Parents said that if they had concerns about their students, they would handle it, he said.
“They felt it was their responsibility,” Cooper said.
The private Colorado Springs School does not have a drug testing policy. Students are only tested if there is a specific event, said Jessica James, CSS director of communications. Depending on the results, there would be disciplinary action.
“We feel this is sufficient policy,” James said, adding that the school works to keep strong relationships with enrolled families.